Struggles for recognition: a content analysis of messages posted on the Internet
Anders Johan W Andersen,1,2 Tommy Svensson3
1Department of Psychosocial Health, University of Agder, Norway; 2Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden; 3Department of Behavioral Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden
Background: The Internet has enlarged the possibilities of human communication and opened new ways of exploring perceptions of mental health. This study is part of a research project aiming to explore, describe, and analyze different discourses of mental health in Norway and Sweden, using material from Internet-based services.
Aim: To examine messages posed by users of publicly available question-and-answer services and to describe their content.
Methods: A Web search was used to identify Norwegian and Swedish Websites offering mental health services by email or posted messages. A total of 601 messages from 20 services, 10 Norwegian and 10 Swedish, were analyzed by means of qualitative content analysis and further interpreted in light of the social theory of recognition by Honneth.
Results: Eight categories emerged from the analysis: family life, couples, others, violence, the ungovernable, self-image, negotiating normality, and life struggles. These categories were then grouped into three themes: (1) relationship to significant others, (2) relationship to self, and (3) relationship to the social community. The themes promoted an understanding of mental health as closely connected to political and social factors.
Conclusions: The results showed a variety of concerns from various parts of life and empowered the view that mental health should be understood broadly, at a conceptual level. Mental health emerged as a deeply relational concept that emphasized the equal distribution of chances in life. It strengthened the moral grammar of social inclusion and the acceptance of plurality in social life.
Keywords: Internet-based services, mental health, public health, social theory
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